Since my retirement from a 30-year teaching career, I have joined the staff at the Jay’s HOPE Foundation. For the past 11 years, I have worked with this remarkable organization on a volunteer basis. God showed me this calling by placing young people in my life who were battling cancer and showing me ways to help them through their journey. I am finally at a point where I can be a part of this ministry on a more full-time basis.
As a staff member, I am able to work with our families in many ways, building my schedule around the needs of our children. When they have appointments at the Macon oncology office, are inpatient in the hospital, or have an outpatient procedure, I am able to spend time with them. We do schoolwork and play educational games. Childhood cancer has a way of taking control away from kids. Doctor’s appointments, radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, hospital stays, etc. all influence the types of activities in which they can participate. Schoolwork, however, is one thing that the children can control. They enjoy being able to learn and challenge themselves. It is refreshing to hear these children express their desire to learn and to keep up with their peers while they are out of school. I am privileged to be able to help them with this and love their excitement for something as normal as schoolwork.
The childhood cancer journey raises unique educational concerns for our families. During active treatment, most children are unable to attend school. Parents are often overwhelmed by the “new normal” in their lives and need help with keeping their kids on track. There are many ways that schools can help, but parents and schools often don’t know where to start. I act as an intermediary and advocate for our children in the school environment. I gladly attend parent/teacher meetings to help both sides understand what is going on educationally. Since I have worked with many children on their journey through cancer and school, I can help parents and educators become aware of accommodations that are accessible and doable.
At Jay’s HOPE, we recognize that dealing with childhood cancer involves the entire family, siblings included. While parents are dealing with medical issues, brothers and sisters experience their own difficulties. I am available to work with siblings during this time as well.
This past fall, I took on an additional task. Our teenagers sometimes struggle to keep their identity through this journey. As young people, they are fine-tuning their personalities, but the medical arena can take some of that away from them. I am now sewing individualized hospital gowns for our teens. I talk to them to learn their interests, favorite colors, hobbies, etc. Then, I go shopping for the “perfect” fabric. To date, I have made 10 gowns and have plans for many more. This is one small way to allow our teenagers to express themselves while in the hospital.
I feel grateful to have found my true calling in life. God works wonders through this amazing organization, and I am glad to be a part of it.